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Council discusses illegal turn solutions

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in News

damagedsign 2IN NEWS
During its recent workshop, Deer Park City Council discussed possible solutions to illegal turns from Railroad Avenue onto Center Street that have repeatedly damaged medians and the Gateway Monument. Council also unanimously passed all items on its agenda.

From installing barricades to closing a portion of the street, Deer Park City Council discussed possible solutions to minimizing illegal left turns from Railroad Street onto Center the northbound lanes of Center Street.

The troubles at the intersection began to escalate last year when an oversized load truck turned from Railroad to the northbound lanes of Center Street on the far north end of Deer Park. The truck struck the Gateway Monument on the west side of the intersection, ripping off a metallic star and causing other structural damage.

Left turns from Railroad onto Center are illegal.

The monument was fixed. However, already three times this year, damage to the monument and has occurred when vehicles have illegally made the turn.

City Manager Jay Stokes said earlier this year, a truck, possibly pulling a low-boy trailer ripped out the median at the intersection after making an illegal turn. City crews fixed the damaged area, only to have it ripped out again six days later by another vehicle making a similar illegal turn.

Damage also recently occurred when a large vehicle turned illegally from Railroad onto Center. The vehicle in this incident smashed ground lights on the monument.

Traffic travelling eastbound on Railroad Avenue attempting to get to the Highway 225 feeder road must do so by crossing railroad tracks about a fifth of a mile before the intersection.

Council discussed a barricade that would physically block vehicles from turning left and forcing a right turn, however, Stokes said that solution could cause problems on other streets.

“Part of the reality of doing that is that trucks will come and realize they can’t turn left, so they’ll go down to Eight or Thirteenth (streets). We’re shifting the problem to another area,” he said.

The discussion turned toward using cameras at that intersection. However, city staff cautioned that cameras would only help to identify vehicles making illegal turns. It would not be used to for traffic enforcement and would not function like red light cameras used in other municipalities.

Council said it would be in favor of placing temporary barricades in the area to keep traffic from turning left.

Council also discussed signage at the Deer Park Community Center dealing with carrying concealed weapons on the premises.

Last year the city placed signs at all entry points of the Community Center restricting guns from the building because the facility houses a preschool program. The signs were affixed in accordance with state law which restricts openly carried or concealed weapons on the premises of a school.

Stokes said a citizen contacted a Houston-area law firm that represents gun rights groups across the state. The law firm filed a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s Office stating the city could not have the signs in place.

“We had signs up based upon what our understanding of the last changes to the law, based on 2015 legislative sessions. They came up with lots of rules and there were many ways to interpret those rules,” Stokes said. “We in good faith put up the signs. We felt justified because we have a duty to notify to not bring a gun in (The Community Center) because there is a school in there.”

The city’s interpretation was that if there was a school inside a facility, the signs were necessary. Also, for a school to be licensed, it must prohibit guns inside, said Stokes.

Initially, the AG’s office stated the school could put up the signs, but not the city, which Stokes called silly. However, to comply with the AG’s office, a representative from the preschool unscrewed the signs from their post and screwed them back in.

“(The preschool) technically put up the signs, and we in good faith thought would be the outcome,” he said.

About nine months later, the AG’s office contacted the city stating that because at times the school is in session and at times it is not, and at times there is a portion of the building that is exclusively a school.

“Where we ended up was the portion of the building that is leased for the preschool at all times is a school and guns are not allowed there,” said Stokes. “They agreed we could have the signs on the exterior building permanently affixed to that part of the building.”

If it opted to, while school was in session, temporary signs could be placed by the preschool at its entrance from inside the community center.

Stokes said the city could have its own unique sign that does not fall under the attorney general’s office that warns while the school is in operation that guns are not allowed at that time.

City staff said the city is awaiting a final letter from the AG’s office closing the case, but because the different interpretations of the law can be made and the Texas legislature is in session, that letter will be delayed.

Council later unanimously approved a resolution to replace the signs that will read: ““This building houses The Community Center Pre-School, which conducts classes each weekday from 7:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. During school hours all weapons are prohibited pursuant to Penal Code Section 46.03(a)(1). An offense under that section is a third degree felony.”

Also, council unanimously approved action on revising the city’s employee travel policy; authorizing the city’s participation in the US Communities Government Purchasing Alliance; budget amendments; and the second of three readings of amending the zoning ordinance.